What Does It Mean to Make Inferences? , pp. 6 of 9

Therefore, a set of LORMS that actually assesses the skill of making inferences should be rewarding students for introducing relevant contextual knowledge, and subsequently for integrating the source with the contextual knowledge in order to create a new or richer image of what happened in the past, hence addressing the inquiry question. The next section will show how this set of LORMS can impact the way we teach in the classroom, and improve the way inferences are being made in the classroom, and also demonstrate how such a LORMS can be operationalized in the classroom context.

Potential Implications on Classroom Instruction

Given the amount of influence that formal assessments have over the way we teach in the classroom, changing and refining the manner we assess for the skill of making inference will have undoubted spin-off benefits on the way classroom instruction is being carried out. This is because the national examinations still stand as the major checkpoint in our educational system, and with that reality, teachers do teach with a view of the formal assessment in mind. Therefore, if the way formal assessments are carried out is refined and brought in line with the inquiry approach as discussed in the previous two sections, it will most certainly change the way teachers teach in the classroom.

When teachers teach with formal assessment in mind, the thought processes behind creating probable inferences is often a casualty, as teachers turn to drill-and-practice methods and the use of writing frames instead. By rethinking the LORMS and the way we ask inference questions, it will also affect the type of drills that are produced. The LORMS and questions discussed in the previous two section will serve to close the gap between the curriculum aspirations of the inquiry approach and the process of formal assessment.

The disciplinary and inquiry approach can give students a clear grounding in the histories that they are learning about and give them a better understanding of the type of reasoning that they will have to engage in in order to come up with good and effective inferences. Furthermore, even though the purpose of history in the classroom has never been to train students to become mini-historians, by aligning formal assessments to the inquiry approach, it also serves to transform the historical classroom into a theatre in which our students role-play as historians in order to pick up transferrable skills of history. This role-playing is useful as it serves to direct our students’ thought processes and energies towards the meaningful acquisition of historical source-based skills. In the example given, students from a Secondary 1 Express class was taught to make inferences not through the use of writing frames, but rather through the modelling of the historian’s craft. The emphasis of the lesson was not on how to present one’s inferences after they have been made, but on how to bring in the relevant ideas and knowledge that will go towards creating probable inferences.

Accordingly, students were instructed on the following steps (see Table 1), closely following the outline of the LORMS as presented in the previous section. The students were not given the “regular” LORMS of “main message” or writing frames that would have otherwise been used when reviewing exercises in the classroom. The question that they were tasked to answer, was also informed by the discussion from the preceding sections, where the question asked had a definite and clear inquiry direction. Students were tasked to answer the following question: “What can you infer about Singapore’s early years as a British colony?”

Before they were allowed to start writing their responses, they were asked to consider the following questions in the scaffolding that was provided. This scaffolding, modelled on the LORMS presented before, was designed to scaffold the thought processes rather than the  writing process:

Related Teaching Materials

AttachmentSize
Appendix894.83 KB

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!